I got the reaction I expected from my daughter when I suggested that for graduate school, to save money, she live at home.
I understand her reservation. But for her greater good, my recommendation makes more financial sense.
My husband and I have saved enough money to pay for her undergraduate studies at the University of Maryland, including room and board. And because we saved, we did not mind that she lived on campus, even though we live only about a half-hour away.
Thanks to an academic scholarship she received, there will be money remaining in her 529 college savings plan to pay for graduate school. But we will have enough to cover only tuition for an in-state master’s program. Her career choice requires further education. She wants to work with children in a counseling position. We are encouraging her to finish her education full time while she’s unencumbered by other obligations.
With a ban on debt — for her or us — she has a choice. Live at home or find more scholarship money. We also don’t want her to become overburdened while attending graduate school by working too many hours to pay for room and board.
With the high cost of housing and all the expenses that go along with independent living, we need to rethink the conventional wisdom that young adults must be shoved out on their own. The “welcome to the real world” rite of passage for many of these young folks can be financially too much, too soon.
Fewer young adults are living apart from their families than before the Great Recession, according to new data that the Pew Research Center mined from the Census Bureau.
“In fact, the nation’s 18-to-34-year-olds are less likely to be living independently of their families and establishing their own households today than they were in the depths of the Great Recession,” wrote Richard Fry, a senior researcher at Pew.
Given the economic severity of the Great Recession, one might expect that millennials would need to live at home. In 2007, before the recession, about 42.7 million 18-to-34-year-olds lived independently. Since then, the number of young adults has increased by 3 million. Yet in the first third of 2015, nearly the same number — 42.2 million — lived on their own, despite gradually improving job opportunities and earnings.
“In the first third of 2015, 26 percent of millennials lived with their parents,” Fry writes. “At the beginning of the recovery in 2010, 24 percent of young adults were living with parents, and in 2007, only 22 percent were.”
Fry points out that this trend may affect the demand for housing, furnishings, cable installations and other purchases that young adults would make if they moved into their own space.
What’s good for the macro economy isn’t necessarily in their best interest. Certainly we want our young adults to be financially independent. I know I do. And I want my space back. I want to be able to kiss my husband without our kids muttering, “Ew.” But I also think we shouldn’t bemoan this trend of more millennials living at home.
Here are situations in which it makes more financial sense for a young adult to live at home:
●Need to borrow for college. If you are using loans to help pay for room and board, either as an undergraduate or graduate student, you’re borrowing for rent and food. In the real world, you would be criticized for using debt to pay your rent or to purchase groceries. At least if you’re using loans for tuition there’s a payback. But is it essential to live on campus or rent an apartment? Commuters have access to the same on-campus programs and amenities. They can interact with fellow students. And they probably get better meals at home. Will this limit their college choices? Perhaps. It will also teach them to do what they can afford.
● Need to pay back student loans. Without the expense of independent living, an indebted college graduate can make tremendous headway in paying off loans early, saving on interest cost.
● Need time to save. Imagine how many more young adults could become homeowners a lot sooner and with greater financial stability if they spent their 20s or even their early 30s living at home, using that financial breathing room to save rather than paying rent.
If we’re living well into our 80s and 90s, that means millennials will have decades of independent living. Give them time at home to save money or to pay off debt or both, and you’ll release an adult ready for her financial responsibilities.
Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or email@example.com. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to wapo.st/michelle-singletary.